Turn An Ender 3 Into A Belt 3D Printer Of Your Very Own

Infinite-bed 3D printers have long been an object of desire in our community, but it has taken a long time for the promise to catch up with the reality in terms of relatively affordable models that live up to expectations. They’re still a little expensive compared to their fixed-bed cousins though, so if you hanker for a Creality CR30 but only have the cash for an Ender 3, [Michael Sgroi] may have the project for you. He’s created the EnderLoop, a set of parts to perform the conversion from a stock Ender 3 to a fully-functional belt printer.

It takes the Ender 3 gantry and tilts it sideways on a pair of 3D printed supports, and replaces the stock Y azis with a belt on rollers driven by a larger motor through a timing belt drive. He has a variety of suggestions for sourcing a belt, and in his case he’s chosen one from PowerBelt3D. As well as the GitHub repository already linked, it can also be found on Thingiverse.

It’s clear that hacking apart a reliable printer in this way is not for the faint-hearted, and that a cautious hacker might prefer to wait a while for a cheaper off-the-shelf model. But we can see that the reliability of the Ender 3 will mean that its parts are still of decent quality in the new configuration, and that it looks as though the base printer can be reassembled should a belt-based build be a failure. Infinite bed printers will inevitably have a major presence in our community, and it is designs such as this one which will lead the way as they evolve into reliable machines.

Putting More Tech Into More Hands: The Robin Hoods Of Hackaday Prize

Many different projects started with the same thought: “That’s really expensive… I wonder if I could build my own for less.” Success is rewarded with satisfaction on top of the money saved, but true hacker heroes share their work so that others can build their own as well. We are happy to recognize such generosity with the Hackaday Prize [Robinhood] achievement.

Achievements are a new addition to our Hackaday Prize, running in parallel with our existing judging and rewards process. Achievements are a way for us to shower recognition and fame upon creators who demonstrate what we appreciate from our community.

Fortunately there is no requirement to steal from the rich to unlock our [Robinhood] achievement, it’s enough to give away fruits of price-reduction labor. And unlocking an achievement does not affect a project’s standings in the challenges, so some of these creators will still collect coveted awards. The list of projects that have unlocked the [Robinhood] achievement will continue to grow as the Hackaday Prize progresses, check back regularly to see the latest additions!

In the meantime, let’s look at a few notable examples that have already made the list:

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Towards More Automated Printers

3D printers can be used in a manufacturing context. This might be surprising for anyone who has waited hours for their low-poly Pokemon print, but for low-volume plastic parts, you can actually run a manufacturing line off a few 3D printers. The problem with 3D printers is peeling the print off when it’s finished. If only there were a conveyor belt solution for a bed that wasn’t forgotten by MakerBot.

[Swaleh] may have a solution to the problem of un-automated 3D printers. He’s designing the WorkHorse 3D, a printer that uses a conveyor belt as a bed. When the print is finished, the conveyor belt rolls forward, depositing a printed part in a bin. It’s the solution to truly automated printing.

The use of conveyor belts to automate a batch of 3D prints isn’t a new idea. Way back in the Before Time, MakerBot released the Automated Build Platform, and used it in production to print off parts for Thing-O-Matics. This bit of Open Hardware was left by the wayside for some reason, and last year saw the invention of a new type of conveyor belt-based printer, The Infinite Build Volume Printer (for lack of a better name) from [Bill Steele]. This printer angles the print bed at 45 degrees, theoretically allowing for prints that are infinitely long. This idea was turned into the Printrbot Printrbelt, and the Blackbelt 3D printer was made public around the same time.

[Swaleh]’s printer is not of the infinite build volume variety. Instead of concentrating on creating long beams, most of the engineering work has gone into making a printer that’s designed to just push prints out. The conveyor belt bed is flat — and may unfortunately infringe on the MakerBot patents — but if you want a printer that’s designed to dump parts out like a very slow injection molding machine, this is the design you want.

The print queue application for this project is just a simple desktop app that serves as a buffer for G-code files. The app sends one G-code file off to the printer, rolls the bed forward, and queues up the next part. It’s simple, yes, but there aren’t too many things that do this now because there aren’t too many printers built to be factories. It’s impressive, and you can check out a few videos of this printer in action below.

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A High Speed, Infinite Volume 3D Printer

One of the most interesting developments in 3D printing in recent memory is the infinite build volume printer. Instead of a static bed, this type of printer uses a conveyor belt and a hotend set at an angle to produce parts that can be infinitely long in one axis, provided you have the plastic and electricity. For this year’s Hackaday Prize, [inven2main] is exploring the infinite build volume design, but putting a new spin on it. This is a printer with a conveyor belt and a SCARA arm. The goal of this project is to build a printer with a small footprint, huge build volume, no expensive rails or frames, and a low part count. It is the most capable 3D printer you can imagine using a minimal amount of parts.

Most of the documentation for this build is hanging around on the RepRap forums, but the bulk of the work is already done. The first half of this build — the SCARA arm — is well-traveled territory for the RepRap community, and where there’s some fancy math and kinematics going on, there’s nothing too far out of the ordinary. The real trick here is combining a SCARA arm with a conveyor belt to give the project an infinite build volume. The proof of concept works, using a conveyor belt manufactured out of blue painter’s tape. These conveyor belt printers are new, and the bed technology isn’t quite there, but improvements are sure to come. Improvements will also be found in putting a small crown on the rollers to keep the belt centered.

All the files for this printer are available on the Gits, and there are already a few videos of this printer working. You can check those out here.